So youre no longer a reporter for Le Temps?
Ive given up working at Le Temps. A great deal has happened since I last visited your bookshop! Have you forgotten our discussion?
I must admit that I didnt really take your plans seriously.
Well, old chap, youre going to be surprised. And if I have gone ahead, its partly because of your business associate.
Yes, Monsieur Mori really cut me to the quick when he mocked my indecisiveness. So I took the plunge; you see before you the director and editor-in-chief of Le Passe-partout, a daily newspaper with a great future. Besides, I want to make you a very interesting proposition.
Victor considered Mariuss chubby face doubtfully. He had met him some years earlier at the house of the painter Meissonier, and had been very taken with the voluble and enthusiastic southerner. Marius was a witty conversationalist, peppered his speech with literary quotations, and charmed both men and women with his apparent candour, but he also had a razor-sharp tongue and never hesitated to voice what others thought wiser to keep to themselves.
Come, Im going to introduce you to our team. There are only a few of us. Were a long way off rivalling the eighty thousand copies sold by Le Figaro but being small doesnt stop you being great think of Alexander.
They pushed their way through the crowd to a table where two men and two women sat sipping drinks.
Children, let me introduce Victor Legris, my learned bookseller friend whom Ive often spoken about. His collaboration will be invaluable to us. Victor, this is Eudoxie Allard, our peerless secretary, accountant, co-ordinator and general factotum.
Eudoxie Allard, a languorous, heavy-lidded brunette, looked him up and down and, judging him to be of only limited and strictly professional interest, gave him a noncommittal smile.
That chap dressed like a dandy is Antonin Clusel. Hes an expert at unearthing information, Marius went on. Besides, youve already met him; hes been to your bookshop with me. Hes very persistent: once hes on the trail of something he never gives up.
Victor saw an affable young man with flaxen hair, whose nose bent slightly to the left. Beside him was a large disillusioned-looking fellow with protuberant eyes, who was contemplating his glass.
To his right, Isidore Gouvier, police deserter. He can gain access to the most secret information. Finally, Mademoiselle Tasha Kherson, a compatriot of Turgenevs and our illustrator and caricaturist.
Victor shook everyones hands but only remembered the illustrators first name, Tasha, with her red hair pulled back in a chignon under a little hat decorated with marguerites, and her pretty unmade-up face. She looked at him with friendly interest, and a wave of warmth spread through him. He made a real effort to follow what Marius was saying, but was distracted by the slightest movement of the young woman.
Tasha was surreptitiously watching him. She had a vague feeling that she knew him. He gave the impression of being on the defensive, withdrawn, yet neither his voice nor his manner betrayed any shyness. Where had she seen that profile before?
Ah, at last, heres Monsieur Kenji Mori! Marius exclaimed.
Victor rose from his chair and suddenly Tasha remembered where she had seen him: he reminded her of a subject in a Le Nain painting.
Over here, Monsieur Mori!
The new arrival came over, very much at ease, and bowed while Marius made the introductions once more. When it came to the turn of Eudoxie and Tasha, Kenji Mori doffed his bowler hat and kissed their hands.
From Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner. Copyright © 2008 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martins Press
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